The Judybats: Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow “Like the Smiths if Manchester was Tennessee in the Heyday of Alternative Rock”

The Judybats were a couple of Tennessee rockers who were first recorded doing a Roky Erickson cover.

And this album, the one I mention in the title — although I came by it due to the incredible ten cassette for one dollar deal at the bargain bin that is Marc’s – the premier cheap-o outlet catering to the Akron-Cleveland area – is proof that this band was more than simply a couple of alt-pop wannabes that managed to get signed for one album on Warner Bros.

In a lot of ways, this album was a bit of a mystery to me – or at least the people behind the music. Nothing more to me than the pictures included in the liner notes. No heart-throb frontman for me to form a crush on, no evident overarching theme. The Judybats weren’t “alternative” the way most of the bands dominating radio waves in the early 1990s. They didn’t sound punk enough to be punk, they’re lyrics were too stylized to be categorized as normal modern rock, and at times their sound bordered on being cringe-inducing, in a decidedly non-American sort of a way.

In fact, at times Jeff Heiskell’s words border on being overtly open, something that usually comes from songwriters from across the pond. Like, say, Damon Gough, or, well, Stephen Patrick Morrissey.

What is the title track of this album but a story of melodramatic regret; a story too woeful to be completely true but too emotionally honest to be a complete farce? Sounds like Moz’s early solo work – when he could play around with blatant characters without the McCartney-Lennon tension that such antic would have brought up if he had aired them within earshot of Johnny Marr.

The Judybats had quite a few numbers that were more than a little reminiscent of 1988’s “Late Night, Maudlin Street”. The fourth track on DINSWTSDG (if you will allow me the hideous acronym,) “Margot Known as Missy” even contains traces of the constant illumination of antiquity that Morrissey has always specialized in. After all, what else are his lyrics rank of if not references to old movies and classic literature?

Who names their kid “Margot” anymore but someone who loves black and white cinematography, anyway?

In a lot of ways, the title of this blog is flawed. Or at least partially flawed. Because the Judybats were not so much like The Smiths as they were like the best of Morrissey’s solo discography. Like Moz, the Judybats put out a handful of respectably decent albums with a few definite clunkers on each release. Unlike Moz, they did not have the resources to continually put out albums that were successively mediocre as time drug on.

They disbanded, sort of, in 1994 after Full-Empty, their fourth studio effort. In 2000 they kind-of sort-of reunited for ’00.

I don’t know much about the Judybats.

And I don’t plan on learning much more about them.

Because their mystique is half of their intrigue to me. A notion similar to the one that I hold about dear old Morrissey.

The less I know, the better.

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